As the dash-for-trash continues in US equities, Neuberger Berman sums up the state of investing currently, “there has certainly been little reward for owning high-return, superior business models that are conservatively financed,” as Bloomberg notes, Fed policy has had the “unintended consequence” of boosting the stocks of companies with heavy debt and little or no earnings. Typically after a recession, such companies lose out to firms that generate more cash and have better balance sheets; this time, no “Darwinian” shakeout happened and low-quality stocks ruled. Managers say they haven’t changed, the market has. The Fed’s QE/ZIRP world has artificially inflated prices of lower-quality U.S. stocks, punishing those who focus on businesses with the best fundamentals, “if the next five years are the same, there won’t be any active managers left.” Continue reading
Whether it is to cripple the will of Putin and end his support of the Syria regime (thus handing the much desired gas-pipeline traversing territory over to Qatari and/or Saudi interests), a hypothesis first presented here in September and subsequently validated by the NYT, or much more simply, just to destroy any and all marginal producers so that Saudi Arabia is once again the world’s most important and price-setting producer and exporter of oil, one thing is clear: the Saudis will not relent from pumping more oil into the market than there is (declining) demand for, until its biggest threat and competitor – the US shale patch – which recently had become the marginal oil producer, as well as its investors – mostly junk bond holders gambling with other people’s money – are crushed, driven before the Saudi royal family, and the lamentation of their women is heard across the globe.
That much is known.
Back to finance. Poland did exactly what I and a few others have been warning about for years with regards to private retirement accounts and pensions. Poland confiscated 50% of all private pension funds last week. PRIVATE pensions.
As Warren Pollock and I have been screaming, one of the largest chunks of collateral left in the system is private retirement money, both in the form of 401(k)s and IRAs and in private pension accounts. In the U.S., the latest data for 2012 shows that there are now $10.5 Trillion in private 401k and IRA holdings, with another $9 Trillion in pensions and annuities.
The regime has been fairly open about its plans to “nationalize”, read CONFISCATE, this collateral and implement a system of “mandatory retirement savings accounts”, which will be just another confiscatory redistribution into the hands of the oligarchs and their cronies. This what Poland just did. This is what MF Global was in its essence. This is what Cyprus was, except the Cypriot confiscation was done to demand deposit accounts instead of retirement accounts, which is now termed a “bail-in” – but it is all of the same stripe, namely the utter destruction of the notion of private property and the redistribution of all wealth into the hands of the oligarchs. In Poland, the private pension paradigm has now also been destroyed because no one will want to put money into a private pension after this knowing that it can and will be stolen by the government at any time with zero redress. Continue reading